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A dad's journey into health

Scoring Man Points

Recently I have felt the need to get creative, to make things, and being the Blokey-bloke that I am, I decided that a return to the good old Woodwork was needed.  A quick look around confirmed that the first challenge of any amateur woodworker was to make his own workbench (lovingly being strength tested by the three munchkins in the feature image).

DSC_1168I had to make plans, draw pictures and get to work.  The first task was to work out the height and being a Munchkin myself I opted for a modest 34″.  If you want to get a general idea just have a quick Google but DON’T look into it too closely you will never be able to look away, there are whole books dedicated to this subject (I know..who has that kind of time to spare).  Then I designed the bench, the design was later to change as I felt there would be some weak points.  Mapped out what was needed off I  went to get the timbered up.  Thanks to some family kindness I was able to get a discount too, cheers bud.

I have found that the most difficult thing about building a bench is……having children.DSC_1321  The most challenging thing was just getting the time to spend in the workshop.  Therefore this build took place over three sessions, firstly was the basic structure, (boring stuff) I decided to plumb for 12mm ply as opposed to the suggested 18mm as I wanted to keep the weight down as I wanted this to be light and mobile.  I had everything cut to size for the basic structure so that it was basically a flat pack build.

For a long time I have admired people that can make things with their own hands and I felt that this should be me, I guess I also want the kids to see me do stuff like this, to show them that it can be done and they don’t needs to be slaves to consumerism.  Added to this, I don’t want to lose (or rather really want to pass on) the ethos I was bought up with, the ‘make do and mend’ mentality and skills my parents were so proud of, which I suppose came from their parents living through the war and having no other option.

DSC_1325I digress, then I built the frame made out of 3″x2″.  Again this is quite heavy but very sturdy.  On the final build I did try to time laps our progress, (I say our, as I had help from my best bud, partner in crime and other laddish cliches) however who knew that it takes the power of three suns to power it and phone duly died.

As I said this was pretty much a flat pack so I was able to match the frame to the top exactly.  It went swiftly and the progress we made was very DSC_1347impressive.  Once completed the frame we turned it over and attached the 4″ casters, therefore our frame was 30″ in height.  Then all that was left was to sink in the bottom shelf and attach the top.  This had a nice dark wood look to it with, may I say, a lovely grain.  I then added a simple pine trim round the edge for a sleek finish.

All that was left was to adorn my achievement with the necessary tools and ablutions that all men (and woodworkie ladies) should possess.  I have tried my hand already at making candle holders and a guitar stand that needs attention as the guitar just falls off,  oops.

To get started I had a few tools already, I know a lot of people are buying up budget tools from places like Aldi and Lidl, but I decided to buy decent second hand tools and hopefully get a good machine that will perform as opposed to an okay machine that struggles a bit.  That’s just my thoughts though.

So if your thinking of having a go at a bit of the old woodwork, do it, it is fun relatively cheap and you get a huge sense of accomplishment from producing something, who knows it could be the start of a life long love or even career.

Much love to you, toodles.

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Family Festival Fun

So last week we managed to get away as a family (such a long time coming) and it was a bloody blast. We managed to scrape together enough money to go and stay with family up near Edinburgh. Tranent if we’re being pedantic about it.

We love being there when the Fringe is on. So much to see and do and not just in the city.

One of our best days out was at East Links Farm, the kids absolutely loved it. They had everything there from a huge wooden castle to a ski slope. It had it all with trains, go-kart and wild animals to boot. I can’t recommend this enough but be warned it was £15 a head for the day but deals can be found if you look about.

We started the holiday by visiting the beach at Portabello near Musselburgh (feature image).

The kids also loved visiting Dalkeith Country Park it had lovely grounds and a great adventure playground for just £1 per head (bonus) . It also had nice shops and a cafe for the grown ups (so we can pretend to be sophisticated n’all that).

The best day for us was when the family baby sat for the afternoon and evening. Ah heaven, we certainly made the most of it. My better half had a show at the Edinburgh Book Festival whilst I wandered round and soaked up the atmosphere.

Meandering around I managed to book in to see two great comedy shows. The amazing Richard Herring and the hilarious Adam Riches.

It was an amazing night and a flashback to our pre-kid days. “Oh Happy Days…”

The holiday was all capped off by a childrens event in the book festival by Children’s Laureate Michael Rose. It was a great show, he is so skilled at talking TO children not at them, a new family favourite I think. It was whilst here I realised I was a fully paid up member of the Dad Brigade. Every dad there had a back-pack crammed full of solutions for every eventuality. We are like holiday soldiers preparing for battle, proud warriors.

If you ever get a chance Edinburgh in August is a must, so vibrant and full of life, you won’t regret it.

Love you all, bye.

Bucket List, Why Wait?

It’s never to late to start ticking stuff off the old bucket list.  Thinking about it I have begun to  cross a few off.  I have managed to see some great artists that helped shape my youth, last year I saw Bryan Adams at the Lytham Festival and this year they managed to secure ‘the rocksteady beat of Madness’.  They were awesome, from start to finish ending with 40 minutes of pure Madness classics, seriously think I lost about 4lb’s dancing to it.

Other items off my list that I am addressing are, losing weight.  My current loss stands at 2st 3lb in a mere 12 weeks (fingers crossed it continues), I got a 2:1 BA Hons degree and at the end of the month I start guitar lessons.

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So what’s left on there that still needs doing?

Well the obvious will always be on there, continue to be the best dad I can be (it’s by far the most important to me), learn a new language (but the older I get the more feasible just speaking louder becomes), completing the Three Peaks Challenge, to climb the three biggest peaks across the UK in 24hrs,………….. erm, oh I know, become a bestselling novelist, lets just call that a work in progress, given that I have absolutely no ideas and haven’t written a word.

Now an old dude that things that get me excited are thinking about old dude things like DIY, choosing a shed and flying drones n’stuff.

So my advice to you is to get thinking about what’s on your list and get ticking, don’t wait to start achieving your goals as it may end up being too late soon.

But as always the one thing I hope me and my family achieve is HAPPINESS

Keep searching folks and let me know what is on your lists.

 

Summer Haze and Endless Days – but at what cost

That’s it, it’s here, summer holidays have officially started.

I have 3 very excited children giddy at the thought of six weeks of fun and frolics ahead of them, and truth be told, I am jealous as hell.

I remember well the feeling of freedom and possibilities about the time ahead.  I guess the reason that I’m so jealous is that I will never get to have that feeling again.  Now as a “grown up” I have the pressure and cost of shaping those freedoms and possibilities.  Don’t get me wrong though, it is totally worth it as I want them to grow up like I did, always looking for adventures, climbing trees and exercising their imaginations.

With a long period of time to fill the cost can soon get out of hand and the end of the summer can be stressful and difficult.  Here are a few things that are days out but don’t give tour wallet a cardiac-arrest:

Camping – you can buy good, cheap, used tents online some that even come with accessories and for the price of  a few nights in a hotel you can buy a tent the basic accessories and go camping every week in the summer.  Here in the UK you can usually pitch up at  a campsite for as little as £10 per night if you look around.  This is a great adventure for them, a bit of a break for you and very inexpensive.

Seaside trips“To the Beach, Beach, lets go to the beach”  I am fortunate enough to live in a seaside town so I have a lot of options close.  But if you can get there you can build sand castles, play football, climb on sand dunes, go rock pooling and paddling, the list goes on and on and don’t let the weather put you off we have spent lots of time there in the rain it’s just an opportunity for you parents to flex your imagi-muscles.

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Forest Walks – We regularly go on forest walks, truth be told though they are little, purpose built woods but the kids don’t know the difference, so shhh.  Take a few empty jars and maybe a net with you in case there is a stream or something and you may get a chance to catch Sticklebacks.

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Swimming – If the weather is too bad then a swim is a good option.  Some local authorities let local children swim for free in the holidays, therefore for all of us to go costs about £4.  Absolute bargain.

The Library – The wife’s a Librarian and would kill me if i didn’t include this ha ha. Honestly though we often use their services.  If you go into your local library they often have summer schemes for children and it gives you places to go, it’s educational and it doesn’t cost much – if anything.  We do the Lancashire Reading Journey.

Parks – There are some great parks around and a quick Google search will find one near you, these include national parks also.  I often take the kids to Beacon Fell and build dens and play hide and seek.

Soft play – Okay some may see this as a bit of a cop out but if the kids are still young, you can have a fairly cheap morning out (and if you go first thing they are usually quite quiet even in the holidays) and they will have a blast.  Piece of advice though – take a book get a coffee and relax

Local event’s – Keep your eye on the local council website, Facebook and google for free events in your area to go to they cost nothing and fill a day.

Days in – Sometimes weather and money conspire against you, but never fear there’s still lots of options:  You can have Film days (tank the lord for Netflix) we head out to the Pound Shop and get a pick’n’mix each go home and watch a movie and eat sweets, perfect.   Gardening maybe not a day out but my kids love helping me in the garden and getting messy as hell.  Indoor adventure time – one of my favourites, use every bit of bedding, sheets and sofa cushions, dining chairs (even tents) and make an indoor fortress – so much fun.

Finally Picnic it all up – one of the biggest expenses when your out is food so take as much as possible with you and you will save bundles.

IMG-20160816-WA0004Any other ideas mums and dads?  Let me know I would love to hear them

Relax and enjoy the summer, who knows you may get that sense of adventure back after all.

The Learner Me

Successfully completing university is a huge achievement for me, however It has left a bit of a chasm within me.  I think it needs to be filled up with something, but what,  more blogs? Sure but I’m not that convinced that I have that much to say (no room for negative self talk…..stop it). Reading? Ah reading my old friend, I would love to do more reading but as the three yr old twins seem to have a sleeping allergy I get about two pages in before the inevitable dozy head bobbing starts.

No I definitely need to learn, so I have settled on a bucket list item – Learn to play the guitar (sounds crazy but it could work).  I wanted to learn earlier on in life, when in sixth form and all impressionable, when the future was still an optimistic adventure full of fame and possible impossibilities, I bought myself a lovely blue, albeit  cheap guitar and started to strum around, she’s called Lucy.

 

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The good lady wife (girlfriend then) even bought me a lovely deep red semi-acoustic number, unfortunately shortly after I shelved my plectrums, vowing to return some day.  Well like the hardened battle scarred warrior I am (or more likely delusional old Don Quixote figure) I return to pick up the quest to rock stardom or possibly part time folkie type player, in my front room, on weekends, when I’ve been drinking.

That said I’m booked in and game ready for the first lesson, its more than a month away yet but still booked.  It’s strange, there were about three or four music shops in Blackpool a while ago and now there be only one.  This country eh? Shame we’re losing stuff, specialised, niche things just disappearing and when the chance arises in the future will they come back? I hope so, but this is a whole other blog waiting to happen.

Back to the topic in hand, me being the new Bob Dylan.  I do feel I need something and learning the guitar seems the perfect thing, lets hope I can stick to it this time.  I am sure to keep you updated on my progress, any other learners out there I would love to hear from you.

 

Stay strong, stay beautiful and don’t ever give up – Don’t you dare!!!

What A Relief

I’m sat here writing this and must admit that I am a bit emotional.  One number and one letter has done this to me……..2i (that’s a 2:1 to most folk).  Its the conformation that I have been waiting for that I have been awarded a 2:1 BA (Hons) degree in Youth Work and Community Learning and Development.

I got there, I made it.  It seems somehow, surreal.  Its been a hell of a four year journey with full time work, children coming out of my ears, redundancy, starting a totally new career, the loss of our dog and many more ups and downs besides.

I am very wary of this as I seem to be on the crest of a wave at the minute and we all know what follows a rise……yup falling arse-over-tit into a big puddle O’shizz.  But for now I am just going to lie back and enjoy the surf.

Another successful aspect of my life at the minute is playing the weight-loss game.  I have started Slimming World again, but am actually sticking to it.  I’m eight weeks deep and am only 1lb of losing 2 stone, yay me.  I have now lost 10% of my weight and loving the feeling of my clothes actually fitting me.

No time to think about how things could go down hill, and if I don’t perhaps they wont (wishful thinking much), the power of positive though –  n’ all that jaaaaazzz.

So from my lofty heights, this is me saying, stay lucky, stay happy and give em hell.

The Lonely Swings

At the park yesterday with my brood, a feeling of melancholy came over me…………When do we grow out of playing?

They looked so happy and carefree, challenging themselves to climb higher, run faster and jump further.  When did it all end with me?  Did it end or is it just not acceptable to be seen playing now?

The closest I get now (approaching 40) is riding my road bike, I still get to exercise not only my body, but also my childish sense of adventure.  I love seeing a road that I have never noticed before and just shooting down it to see where it goes.  I use things to fill the loss of play in my life, like:  Xbox, drones and, I guess my phone.  These take up my time, but none of them come close to that carefree abandon I had as a child.

Is that where it all ends?  With cares and responsibilities, do we see play as a luxury that we no longer need to prioritise when other things come along.   It’s so sad to think that people get older without fun, adventure and play.  Or is it the desire to get older to grow up and be more mature.  We all crave and rush towards it when we are younger, but when we get there and are comfortable with ourselves, do we ever rush back.  I think I’m ready to (my inner cynic giggling behind it’s hand and coughing the words…Midlife crisis.  Cheeky bugger).  But I can’t help wanting back play.

I would totally love for someone to open up an adult play ground near me.  To climb and swing, without the need for alcohol to lower my inhibitions enough to let go and start having fun.

As it stands though I thank God for the kids, they keep me young and plugged into that world.  Seeing them play and have fun is how kids are supposed to be, and I think adults are too.  So I’m off to the park with the kids again and this time I’m going to play too.

“NEXT ON THE SWINGS”

See you next time folks and don’t grow up.   (Cheeky wink)

 

Anniversaries on a shoestring

So we have recently had our ten-year anniversary, yay us, unfortunately for a number of reasons we have yet to properly celebrate (child-care, work commitments and university all getting in the way).

But a recent conversation with a friend reminded me of some of our anniversaries gone by, when, as new parents money was almost none existent.  I though I would take this opportunity to share these nuggets of relationship gold with you lucky folk today.

It’s very unusual that my wife and I manage to have the day off together without the kids, let alone on our anniversary, but on rare occasions and when the planets aligned perfectly (and the good grace of our long suffering parents) it has happened.   When the kids where younger and money was tighter than my trousers at a buffet we did mange to spend some time celebrating our anniversary together.

A few years ago we got such an opportunity, but with nothing planned and little cash we were struggling.  We live near Lytham a lovely seaside town in Lancashire with views of Southport.  On the main road there are lots of quaint tea-rooms bars and the like, but there are also lots of good quality charity shops (thrift stores for our American brethren).  I planned the day, that we would get £15 each and have to buy something for each other.  We were only allowed to use charity shops.  Then after two hours we met up and presented each other with the gifts over tea and cake, it was lovely.  That’s the first, feel free to nick, pinch, take,steal, lift, swipe or half-inch it.

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I think this could also be expanded on with a little more money.  Rather than buying each other something, instead shop together and put what you buy into an auction and try to make a little money whist having a great experience, the Dickinson Real Deal Anniversary Day Out ha ha.

The second is similar to the first but indulges both of our love for books.  Again on an anniversary we had nothing planned but a bit more money (not for the day but for a more swanky meal).  We drove to Southport for the day.  They have an amazing bookshop called Broadhursts Bookshop.  It is a four floor book shop combining new, second-hand and collectible books.  Heaven for book lovers, but also I think you could find something for everyone.  We were challenged to pick three books each for the other person.  We were up and down the stairs passing each other hiding what you have already decided on whilst trying to sneak a peak at what had been chosen for you.  This was lots of fun and took ages.  Then over dinner we presented each other with our pickings one book at a time and a reason for our choices.

The beauty of days like these, is that having little money takes out the materialism of the anniversary and you spend a large chunk of the day thinking about your partner and ways of making them happy.  They are much more memorable days, so much so in fact that I struggle to remember other anniversaries as they were probably just a meal out (please don’t kill me if I have forgotten something big).

So there you go a few little anniversary ideas, a gift from me to you.

Always remember that necessity is the mother of invention and you don’t have to spend a lot to get massive rewards.

Stay creative people

Crossing the Finish Line

“The line it is drawn the curse it is cast….” Bob Dylan.

That’s it, another ending.  Today was my last day at University, an end of year exam and a few celebratory drinks, then it was done.

It’s been a great four years and I have met some amazing people.  So much has changed in that time, we’ve had the twins I have been made redundant, found a new career path and we lost our little dog Gus (all well documented in other posts; my attempt at hooking you in, did it work?).

Who thought that at my ripe old age I would be finally getting a degree.  I missed out on it when all my friends went, I took a different route but there was always a yearning there to get one.  I always felt like I wasn’t as good as others, that I had something to prove, and I did.  However now I know that it was something I needed to prove to myself, without realising it I had set getting a degree as a personal goal and today, touch wood, I did it.

To be honest I also wanted to do it for my mum, as I will be the first one in our family to do it and I want her to see one of her sons in a cap and gown.

What better day to do it, than my ten year wedding anniversary to my lovely wife.  It was nice celebrating both occasions with all the family (well obviously going away together for a few nights without the kids, cheeky wink, but that will have to wait a few weeks for our diaries to align).

So guys if you have anything that you want to achieve in life, go for it, no matter how long it takes, you will feel a real sense of accomplishment when you do.

Now I can sit back and look forward to taking my wife, mum and eldest daughter to see me graduate. Good times.

I would like to take the opportunity to say thanks to my tutor Jeff and my degree companion Nathan who kept me going through the tough times.

Stay lucky people.

“because the times they are’a changing” Bob Dylan

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